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Delegates not fazed despite some frosty receptions

NEW YORK -- Attention, New Yorkers. Republican delegates from all over the country want you to know: They don't hold any of it against you.

June Rentmeester, of Richardson, Texas, doesn't blame you for the man who spat on her in the street the other day. Janice Koehne, of McQueeney, Texas, doesn't think you're responsible for the person who quietly said ''fascist" as he passed her. Jan Baldock, of Milwaukee, truly believes you want her to return to New York, even though people yelled, ''Go home!"

They believe most New Yorkers were tickled pink to have them in the city. They believe most of the troublemakers were professionals. Imports. Angry at everything. Lacking core beliefs.

So the people who tried to make them feel unwelcome did not succeed, delegates said yesterday.

They like New York.

''If you were to ask me would I come back, with my family, I would say absolutely," said Baldock, waiting in her seat at Madison Square Garden before convention proceedings began last night.

''If their objective was to make me feel uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable. I'm used to being in a place where people are more accepting of differences. It's scary to be around people who don't believe in anything. This country was built on beliefs."

But the farther Baldock and her fellow delegates got from the Garden, the nicer people became, she said.

''This city is a beautiful city," said Nancy Acevedo, of Orlando, Fla. ''People are very nice. We have our own bus lane!"

Acevedo said she got no grief in New York, and she hadn't expected any.

But she didn't take unnecessary risks. In the street, she hid her giant delegate credential from view ''to avoid any confrontations." She was similarly reticent to display the Republican finery in which she was decked out last night: red blazer with rhinestone-trimmed collars, white hat tipped jauntily to one side and loaded with an American flag and buttons supporting President Bush.

Others walked the streets of Manhattan proudly sporting we-aren't-from-here ensembles.

Texans, like Koehne, went around the city in their cowboy hats, making delegates from Bush's home state easy marks. One night, as she and other Lone Star Staters got off their bus, a group of protesters yelled, ''Go home!" But Koehne paid them no mind. Besides, she had heard from a relative that some people were being paid to cause trouble.

In addition to being spat on, Rentmeester was called an illegal alien and told to get out of town.

''But we didn't go," she said. ''We're here for the good times."

Some delegates gave as good as they got. When gay rights activists outside the Missouri delegation dinner on Tuesday night yelled, ''Missouri is a hate state!" and ''Bush will lose!" the delegates waved at them and snapped pictures.

On Sunday night, Pennsylvanian Charlie Gerow was with some fellow delegates on Broadway when a couple of people ''came up behind us and told us to leave town in less than polite ways," he said. There were other brief taunts, too, he said: '' 'Are you as stupid as George Bush?' Nothing serious."

''It's background noise as far as I'm concerned."

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